Like most Mardi Gras balls in south Louisiana, the Ascension Fair Association’s Feb. 1 event will feature music, beads and at least one “second-line” dance around the building.

For association President Tony Christy, the Mardi Gras Gala is about more than having fun and throwing beads.

Association board members use the event to raise awareness of their nonprofit group’s programs and plans, Christy said.

“The ball is a fun way for us to raise awareness of the things we do for the community and Ascension Parish,” Christy said.

The association, Christy said, has a long history of community service.

The association recorded its incorporation paperwork at the Ascension Parish Courthouse on March 22, 1950, and was officially incorporated Sept. 22, 1950, as the Ascension Negro Fair Association by a group of Prairieville residents hoping to promote agricultural growth and provide educational and recreational activities for the residents of the area, Christy said.

In the beginning, Christy said, the group held fairs and livestock shows at its fairgrounds in Prairieville. The organization’s focus was to help family farms and livestock owners get on their feet after the war, he said.

“We’ve always been about the family,” he said.

The group changed its name in the 1960s, but its mission to help area families hasn’t changed much, Christy said.

The fairgrounds site was named as a Louisiana Historic Site in 2008.

The group is planning a renovation project to update the fairgrounds. Money from the gala will be used to convert the kitchen area into a community center, he said. A second phase will fund repairs to the covered pavilions and ballfield sites.

“We are not just here for Prairieville, we’re here for the entire parish,” Christy said. “We want the grounds to be used by everyone in the parish.”

The group hosts an annual spring fair and health seminars and screening each year. Christy and association members hosted a fishing day at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in June.

Christy said the association’s Living Healthy Program will start up again in March and plans are under way to provide tutoring to students preparing to take the state’s LEAP tests.

Christy and Richard Brown, an association member who is also on the Ascension Parish School Board, are working on a mentoring program for “troubled kids in the area.”

“We going to have fun and we’re going to let everyone know about the good things we do and want to do,” Christy said.